‘House of the Dragon’ star Steve Toussaint addressed the racism he faced after being cast in the Game of Thrones prequel, saying that for some it was ‘beyond the great’, one “rich black guys” in a fantasy series.
The ‘Small Axe’ and ‘Judge Dredd’ star plays Lord Corly’s Velaryon in the sprawling drama, which premiered on HBO Sunday. But long before the first episode crashed HBO Max, Toussaint’s casting sparked another backlash and reignited the conversation about different casts in historical dramas.
In an interview with Men’s Health published on Monday, the 57-year-old Brit elaborated on the issue, saying he’d also been told “it’s great to have that representation” on the show. However, he previously revealed he was “racially slurred on social media” but didn’t want to let it get to him.
“First of all, historically, there were people of color,” said interviewer Hanna Flint in her Q&A. “Secondly, if you care more about a man’s skin color than the fact that everyone has miraculously beautiful teeth, it only shows your prejudice.”
“That’s really true. So many people base their idea of the history of this country on a few movies and things that were made in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that bear no resemblance to the truth,” Toussaint said. “Historical seen folks of my stripe and yours, we didn’t just show up here in the 70’s or 60’s. There was a point at which the ruler of his country, “the Caesar”, was an African. There are street names that tell you, that even back then there were people in this country who looked like us, but for some reason it seems very hard for people to swallow.”
But for some, Corly’s ascension mobility and stature are less believable than some of the saga’s wilder supernatural events.
“And like you said, they’re happy when a kite flies. You’re happy with white hair and violet eyes, but a rich black guy? It’s going too far,” he said.
This “rich black man” is also known as “The Sea Snake” in the sprawling series. Toussaint’s Lord Corlys is of Valyrian descent and – almost two centuries before the drama in Game of Thrones – was the richest man in Westeros. With his fortune as a seafarer, he built up the largest navy in the Seven Kingdoms and is married to Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) of the Targaryen noble house, from which the series title is derived. He also sits on the governing council, where much of the series premiere’s political intrigue unfolds.
“[U]Ultimately, for me, what drives him is the fact that he’s trying to elevate his family and his name. When his wife was passed over for the crown, he seems to take it a lot more personally than she does. Ambition is his driving force for most of the season,” said Toussaint.
Toussaint is just the latest black actor to come to terms with the racism he’s faced simply for being cast in a big estate. Others include Moses Ingram from the Disney+ series Obi-Wan and Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega, who have faced similar online abuse for their roles in the more recent Star Wars films.
However, Toussaint seems hopeful about what House of the Dragon has to say about the world.
“A TV show or a movie, no matter where it’s set, reflects the time it was made in. One of the criticisms of Thrones, especially in the early seasons, was that there was a sense of exploitation, especially for the women,” he said.
He later added, “The fact that we have female directors and female writers is less exploitative. There is violence and sex, but the crux of the matter is the conflict between two ladies [Princess Rhaenyra and her friend Alicent Hightower]. Whether that reflects the growing status and power of women in our society I don’t know. It’s still about relationships. It’s still about people trying to maneuver. It’s still about who you look in the eye when you speak. I guess I’ll have to look at all of this and then get back to you.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-08-22/dragons-being-more-plausible-than-a-rich-black-guy-irks-house-of-the-dragon-star ‘House of the Dragon’ star: How are dragons more plausible than ‘a rich Black guy’?